February 26, 2014
Inviting Applications for the Libertas Project Summer Workshops
The Libertas Project at Villanova University School of Law is seeking applications for participation in its 2014 summer workshops on religious and economic freedom. The project will seek to bring together concerns about religious freedom and economic freedom in a framework that situates both topics amid a larger conversation about freedom, law, and virtue. The Libertas Project aspires to broaden the academic and public appreciation for religious freedom as a human good, while also bringing the insights of religion to bear on conversations about economic freedom as an essential component of a free society. A more detailed description of the project’s inspiration and goals is below. The Libertas Project is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
To address these issues of religious and economic freedom, the Libertas Project will host a series of summer workshops at Villanova University School of Law. Each workshop will be comprised of approximately 20 participants drawn primarily from law but also welcoming scholars from related fields (philosophy, political science, religion, business, and economics, for example) as well as judges, policymakers, and journalists. The workshops will be structured around a set of common readings on each topic with group discussions, break-out sessions, and meals in order to foster scholarly networks and collaborative projects among the participants.
The dates for the 2014 summer workshops are July 7-9 on economic freedom and July 14-16 on religious freedom. Participants in the workshops will each receive an honorarium of $1500.
The workshop moderators will be Thomas Smith (Villanova University) and Mary Hirschfeld (Villanova University) on economic freedom, and Marc DeGirolami (St. John’s University) and Zachary Calo (Valparaiso University) on religious freedom.
The workshops will take place at Villanova University School of Law. Villanova is located 12 miles west of Philadelphia, the fifth-largest city in the United States and the second-largest city on the East Coast. The campus is situated on Philadelphia’s suburban Main Line, and Villanova is easily accessible by train, plane, car, or regional public transportation.
Due to limited travel funds, participants are asked to obtain travel funding from their home institutions, but travel scholarships are also available.
To apply, please submit a brief statement of interest (and specifying whether you are interested in the workshop on economic freedom or religious freedom) with a current c.v. to the project leader, Michael Moreland, Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law (Moreland@law.villanova.edu) by April 30, 2014.
The Libertas Project addresses two topics related to freedom in the context of law and religion in American public life: religious freedom and economic freedom.
Religious freedom and economic freedom, though rarely treated together, illustrate both some of the shortcomings and the possibilities of American intellectual life, most especially in American law and legal scholarship. One of the challenges faced in American legal scholarship and political theory on religious freedom is the reduction of religious freedom to constitutional law, with little engagement with theological arguments or empirical research on religion in American public life. The leading casebooks and materials on law and religion – even those most sympathetic to religious views – often contain little engagement with theological sources. The American legal discourse on religious freedom is dominated by an understanding shaped by the constitutional framers and then worked out in U.S. Supreme Court doctrine. While important, such a focus omits what is often genuinely important about religious freedom and why it is worthy of constitutional protection in the first place. In addition to understanding the constitutional tradition, lawyers and policymakers also need to understand religious questions as they arise across theological traditions as well as in the history of political thought and practice.
At the same time, public discourse about economic freedom tends to avoid engagement with religion, resulting in an unnecessarily cramped view of the possibilities for mutual illumination between economic and religious aspirations. In some contemporary schools of thought, human beings are understood solely in terms of narrow economic motives. But if religion can be understood as a school for the cultivation of right desire for the benefit of individuals and the common good, putting religious traditions in conversation with economic theory and practice is critical to the effort to raise the most important questions about the meaning and purpose of economic activity: How does the cultivation of an entrepreneurial spirit liberate human capital for human prosperity in a good society? How does such a society manage risk and reward? How are economic motivations better understood when we place them in theological and social contexts? What is the relationship of the entrepreneurial spirit to the meaning of justice and equality? What resources might religious traditions bring to bear on the meaning of economic freedom?
The Libertas Project seeks to bring together legal, theological, and philosophical approaches in search of innovative answers to difficult legal and policy questions about human freedom, both economic and religious. With law students, legal scholars, and legal practitioners as one of the primary audiences, the insights produced by the project will inspire in current and future lawyers and policymakers a renewed commitment to both moral character development and free markets. The combination of economic freedom and religious freedom promises a society of responsible persons working toward the common good. In sum, the Libertas Project seeks to foster a greater understanding of the ways religious and economic freedom can bring about the development of character that advances the prosperity and health of the good society.
February 06, 2014
Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of Mirror of Justice
I first came across Mirror of Justice 10 years ago while practicing at a firm in Washington—I was amazed to see that there existed a critical mass of smart, engaged legal scholars in an area called “Catholic legal theory” and followed the blog avidly. My decision to enter the legal academy was shaped partly by the conversation I saw taking place at Mirror of Justice, and, a few years ago, I eventually became a contributor.
Like Rob Vischer, I now have an administrative role that leaves little time for working on Catholic legal theory, though I think a lot about the nature of legal education at a Catholic university. As Rob indicates, Mirror of Justice appeared at a time when there were new law schools (such as his own at St. Thomas) opening with an intentional focus on mission and new conferences and workshops at several schools exploring the distinctive aspects of the identity of Catholic law schools. That period has now passed and there are now enrollment- and employment-outcome pressures facing all law schools—religiously-affiliated or not—that seem, understandably, to crowd out other priorities. That said, I have two brief thoughts about the ongoing salience of the “MOJ Project.”
First, Mirror of Justice was founded amid an era in which Catholic universities generally (and not only in law schools) were engaged in a renewed conversation about their religious identity. As is now, I think, widely recognized, the governance by members of sponsoring religious orders and a strong desire to move out of cultural and intellectual isolation had led Catholic colleges and universities to be somewhat complacent about their mission in the post-Vatican II era. The end of that period and the beginning of a renewed conversation were inaugurated by John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae in 1990 (the discussion of which was sometimes sidetracked by the debate over the relation of bishops to theologians) and publication of George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University in 1996. Marsden demonstrated that religious identity could (and did) disappear from universities over the course of the history of American higher education, and it became apparent to many that Catholic universities were heading down the same path previously traveled by Marsden’s case studies in secularization and the marginalization of religious identity.
The challenge, of course, was and still is how to respond to this historical situation. From that era came the creation of mission officers at many institutions, the development of mission-related courses (such as Catholic social thought and law-type courses) and programs (such as Catholic studies departments) at some schools, and discussion of how institutions should take into account their mission when hiring faculty and staff. All of those developments were important and praiseworthy, and Mirror of Justice was a manifestation of the same spirit.
But there has always lurked the danger of a kind of “extrinsicism” in some of these efforts, and I think the next challenge for Catholic institutions—and even blogs—is to find ways of overcoming it. I borrow the term from Michael Buckley, SJ, and his discussion of these matters in his book The Catholic University as Promise and Project (1999). (I served as Michael Buckley’s research assistant while I was in graduate school at Boston College during the composition of the book.) As Buckley puts it, this view “presents a vision of the Catholic university in which the religious and the academic, however interrelating and intersecting, are fundamentally extrinsic to one another. In no way does either bring the other to its own intrinsic or inherent completion” (11). And so in law schools and in legal scholarship, “religion” is added onto “law,” just as finance majors in most Catholic universities have to take (and resent) classes about “religion.”
The great Catholic university—and Catholic law school—of the future will seek ways in its institutional life to achieve the integration of faith and reason, the sacred and the secular, in new and creative ways. As Buckley wrote in an earlier essay that was later adapted for his book:
The fundamental proposition of the Catholic university is that the religious and the academic are intrinsically related. Any movement toward meaning and truth is inchoatively religious. This obviously does not suggest that quantum mechanics or geography is religion or theology; it does mean that the dynamism inherent in all inquiry and knowledge—if not inhibited—is toward ultimacy, toward a completion in which an issue or its resolution finds place in a universe that makes final sense, i.e., in the self-disclosure of God—the truth of the finite. At the same time, the tendencies of faith are inescapably toward the academic. This obviously does not suggest that all serious religion is scholarship; it does mean that the dynamism inherent in faith—if not inhibited—is toward its own understanding, toward its own self-possession in knowledge. In their full development, the religious intrinsically involves the academic, and the academic intrinsically involves the religious—granted that this development is de facto always imperfectly realized at best or even seriously frustrated. "The Catholic University and the Promise Inherent in Its Identity," in Catholic Universities in Church and Society: A Dialogue on Ex corde Ecclesiae, ed. John P. Langan, SJ (Georgetown University Press, 1993), 82.
Second, I am generally sympathetic to reforms in legal education that emphasize business literacy and experiential learning as a way to prepare our graduates for successful careers, as indicated by Villanova Law School’s strategic plan. I think Catholic law schools and the work of this blog might bring two other important pieces to the discussion of legal education, however.
One is an emphasis on student formation and discernment. As Christian Smith and his colleagues documented in Lost in Transition (2011), many young adults are detached from moral, political, and religious commitments that often leaves them without the resources to make sense of their lives and personal and professional choices. Catholic institutions and the tradition they inherit have a well-developed framework for engaging such questions, and I am excited to see how our institutions will find ways of educating the whole person and engaging our students from within that framework.
Finally, the Catholic law school and “Catholic legal theory,” while committed to preparing students for professional success, also appreciate the full context for law and legal institutions. We are educating souls, not merely imparting skills training for budding bureaucrats. And so at a time when humanistic legal education (and courses in areas such as legal history and jurisprudence) is being very much called into doubt, I hope this blog and our institutions can develop arguments for the importance of such an education--not to the detriment of professional skills and a successful career but because we are the bearers of a great tradition that insists on education as the formation of citizens and participation in God's own work.
September 20, 2013
Pope Francis and Mercy
Aquinas writes that mercy is the greatest of the virtues insofar as it is proper to God and the way in which God's omnipotence is primarily made manifest (ST, II-II.30.iv). Apart from the hurly-burly of reaction to Pope Francis's interview for Jesuit publications, I think this--the primacy of mercy--is the deepest and most powerful aspect of what Francis is saying and calls all of us (as teachers, parents, colleagues, and friends) to ponder where and how we can bring about mercy in a world desperately in need of it. Over at First Things, Nathaniel Peters writes:
Like any good triage specialist, the pope knows that you give the most critical medicine first. That is why, first and foremost, he preaches the mercy of Christ. Mercy, he clarifies, is neither rigor nor laxity. It neither ends in condemnation, nor in a false sense of comfort that one is not diseased. It says what Francis says of himself: “You are a sinner, and the Lord has looked upon you with mercy.”
Since this is the heart of the gospel, all other aspects of Catholic truth presuppose and proceed from it. All the controversial parts of the faith can only be understood in light of this fundamental truth. During and before his papacy, Benedict repeated this again and again. The heart of the gospel must be understood so that the moral teachings can be understood.
September 17, 2013
Robert Bellarmine and the Seeds of Constitutionalism
The great saint, Jesuit cardinal, and doctor of the Church Robert Bellarmine died on this date in 1621. This gives me another opportunity to commend the work of the terrifically talented Stefania Tutino, including her book on Bellarmine's political theory, Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth (Oxford, 2010), and her edited collection of primary sources from Liberty Fund. Here's a bit from Stefania's conclusion to the chapter on Bellarmine and the "potestas indirecta":
Bellarmine followed the neo-Thomist doctrine of differentiating sharply between the natural power of the sovereign and the supernatural power of the pope, and indeed he grounded his view of the pope's empire of souls precisely on the unique, incommensurable, and supreme character of the pope's spiritual authority over both the Church and the Christian temporal commonwealths. This move, however, did not remove the seed of constitutionalism when it came to secular government, or, better, it weakened the authority of the sovereign with respect to the authority of the pope while at the same time granting to the temporal authority an autonomous space with respect to the authority of the Christian Church....
What this paradox highlights, I argue, is just how relevant Bellarmine's theory was in the political discourse of early modern Europe, precisely because it was engineered to safeguard and preserve the pope's spiritual primacy against both the Protestants and the authority of early modern monarchies. The significance of this issue transcends the question of the constitutionalist elements embedded in Bellarmine's and other neo-Thomists' doctrine: in a sense, in fact, precisely because Bellarmine's potestas indirecta was meant to oppose the supernatural and supernational empire of souls of the pope to the national and "natural" jurisdiction of the king, it became a fundamental springboard to rethink the secular arguments and foundations of constitutionalism and absolutism. 209-10.
McConnell and Inazu Brief in McCullen v. Coakley
Following on Tom's earlier post, Michael McConnell and John Inazu have co-authored an excellent amicus brief (available here) in the upcoming McCullen v. Coakley case challenging Massachusetts' public-sidewalk exclusion zone statute. The brief is on behalf of a range of religious groups, including the Christian Legal Society, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Christian Medical Association, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, National Association of Evangelicals, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Missouri Synod Lutherans, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
As McConnell and Inazu note, even some sympathetic to abortion rights have roundly criticized Hill v. Colorado (Laurence Tribe has said it was "slam-dunk simple and slam-dunk wrong" and Kathleen Sullivan noted its weaknesses in a Pepperdine Law Review symposium). As I've been working my way through the canonical First Amendment cases in Constitutional Law II this semester, I am struck again by how rarely the government wins in contemporary free speech cases, Hill v. Colorado and Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project being notable recent exceptions, along with a smattering of government employee (Garcetti v. Ceballos) and student speech (Morse v. Frederick) cases. In cases that seemed to pose close questions--Brown v. EMA (violent video game sales to minors), for example--the Court has issued broad, bright-line, pro-free speech opinions. And the four members of the Court appointed since Hill v. Colorado seem at least somewhat more liberal (libertarian) on freedom of speech than their predecessors, all of whom were in the majority in Hill. Chief Justice Rehnquist, for example, was (to put it broadly) often pro-government in speech cases, see Renton v. Playtime Theaters. Hill's author, Justice Stevens, was also (again broadly) frequently pro-government in speech cases and said after his departure that he would have joined Justice Alito's dissent in United States v. Stevens (animal cruelty videos). With Hill's three dissenters (Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy) still on the Court and by replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist with Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Stevens with Justice Kagan (whose nascent record on the Court and earlier academic work is strongly pro-free speech), Justice Souter with Justice Sotomayor, and Justice O'Connor with Justice Alito, a clean majority to reaffirm Hill looks very unlikely.
August 28, 2013
Hollingworth on Augustine and Civilization
As Rick noted, today is the Feast of Saint Augustine, an occasion for special celebration at Villanova, which is sponsored by the Augustinians. I've been dipping into Miles Hollingworth's splendid new intellectual biography of Augustine. Here's a bit, with profound relevance especially for teachers, parents, and those who reflect on our public life:
Clever university students of the right persuasion can affect a meticulous languor whose sole pleasure is noticing itself in grand poses of disinterest—what Evelyn Waugh called 'the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding'. But you can't cheat life like this; your character will continue to hound you. The emerging picture is of Augustine as a young man, with the blood really pounding in his ears. He will make every attempt to repose in the normal and acceptable life of his new city; yet he will feel unable to enjoy it with the same ease that he will observe in those around him. He will feel that he is being permitted to live only a fugitivam libertatem, a 'fugitive's freedom'. It is one of the particular consequences of individuality and the first-person perspective that you will always assume that you are the only one going through these things. And if God has been a part of your upbringing then this is the moment when God usually gets it in the neck—as the spiteful architect of it all. Why should we be obliged to call Him good and make up the shortfall in a disingenuous belief?
Augustine’s contribution to the psychology of adolescence seems to be to suggest that the stock intensities of this time arise within a complex about God; about parents (and particularly the father) as the earthly stand-ins for God; and about how the sensation of betrayal by these deities creates those hair-trigger responses to the world. 'For just as vinegar corrodes a vessel if it remains long in it, so anger corrodes the heart if it is cherished till the morrow.’ Those who newly enter the world as children are permitted a certain measure of goodwill about it all that the enemy of this has only to destroy by cultivating scenarios in which anger must be carried for long distances. For, by the laws of action and reaction, anger develops in complex and elongated ways into sets of rights—which are those negative assurances held so passionately against all-comers. And from the anger of children forced to compromise comes the adult triumph of the rights-based civilization of the Earthly City, holding its sharpest edge to the neck of God.
Miles Hollingworth, Saint Augustine of Hippo: An Intellectual Biography (Oxford UP, 2013), 112-13.
August 20, 2013
Michael Gerson and Thomas Smith on Transitory Goods
Michael Gerson has a typically thoughtful piece at the Washington Post today, but it is much more--a beautiful reflection on the joys and sorrows of parenting and the elusiveness of goods in life: "Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough." My colleague Thomas Smith wrote insightfully about this theme in a lecture on Tolkien's Catholic imagination, recently republished in a festschrift. A bit:
The point is that the transitory goods of this world are beautiful and attractive to us, and yet even as we enjoy them, we have an inkling that they will pass away – just as we will. Our enjoyment is mixed with grief because of the sense of impending loss. This is why the Buddha speaks of existence as suffering. He does not mean that there is no happiness in life. Nor does he mean that sometimes painful moments follow happy ones in turn. Rather, he says that life is like honey on a razor; we are cut as we taste its sweetness. Even in our most joyful experiences, a tragic sense lurks that they shall pass. We tend to push that away, shielding ourselves through various distractions. We also tend to cling possessively to our positive experiences and people, unwilling to let them slip through our grasp. Clearly, the ordinary sufferings of sickness, old age, or mental pain constitute part of the suffering of mortal life. Yet there is also suffering even in our joy because of the flow of time. For the Buddha, at the heart of suffering is a clinging possessiveness that expects the universe to meet all our demands, that refuses to let the world flow on through time because this flow frustrates our wish that enjoyment should last.
The Texafication of American Catholicism
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced earlier this summer that he is running for Governor, but a neglected aspect of the coverage was that Abbott (the favorite in the race next year) would, to my knowledge, be the first Catholic to hold major (Governor or US Senator) statewide office in Texas (Lorenzo de Zavala, Vice President of the Republic for a few months in 1836, notwithstanding). While this is only one small indicator, there is a major and still somewhat unappreciated shift underway in American Catholicism away from its historic geographic core in the belt running from Saint Louis and Chicago across the Great Lakes up to Boston (with outposts in places such as New Orleans and the major cities in California), one that I think is interesting to contemplate for the future of Catholic culture (in law and otherwise) in the US. But because many of us live in the vestigal culture of American Catholicism and read media (First Things, Commonweal, and America) produced out of it, the change is easy to ignore for now.
As dioceses in Northeastern cities close parishes, sell real estate, and face financial difficulty, the Church in Texas (as Rocco Palmo pointed out last year) is booming. Galveston-Houston is now a cardinalate see (occupied by a Pittsburgher), while Detroit and Saint Louis may never be again. What will emerge is a Church different in important respects--more influenced by Latino Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism and much less dependent on large Catholic institutions. The liturgical forms of American Catholicism will likely become more mega-church than Tridentine. The massive system of universities, hospitals, and parishes of Midwest and Northeast Catholicism will probably not be replicated in Texas. Consider there are about 7.2 million Catholics in Texas and about 3.4 million in Pennsylvania (source: Pennsylvania and Texas Catholic Conferences), but Texas has seven Catholic colleges or universities and Pennsylvania has 26 (source: ACCU). While Catholics build up some institutional presence (under the presidential leadership, for example, of former Illinois and UST law dean Tom Mengler at St. Mary's in San Antonio), they will also be entrepreneurs in non-Catholic institutions, such as the outstanding Catholic campus ministry at Texas A&M. And just as Catholic social teaching in America for the last century was shaped by (and shaped) the New Deal and the Great Society, Texas is, to put it mildly, more libertarian and distrustful of the state, and this will surely affect how the Church thinks about social problems.
Now, I happen to love Texas and think this is all great (if disruptive and inevitable) for the American Church. The major institutions of higher education in Midwest and Northeast Catholicism--Boston College, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, Fordham, and so on--will endure, in part by educating the burgeoning Catholic population of Texas. But as we think about how Catholicism and its social doctrine contibute to our public life in the United States, we would do well to consider how the exuberant and "strange genius" (to lift a phrase from former Economist reporter Erica Grieder's recent book) of Texas and its religious and political culture may soon be the dominant force in the American Catholic Church.
August 15, 2013
Pope Francis on Hope
I've long thought that a somewhat neglected topic in theology and law is the virtue of hope--not optimism, not despair, not wishful thinking, not pessimism, but the theological virtue of hope. Those looking for a start should read my friend Dominic Doyle's fine book on Christian humanism and St. Thomas on hope. And so on this Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, here is Pope Francis speaking of hope in his homily at Castel Gandalfo:
Hope is the virtue of those who, experiencing conflict – the struggle between life and death, good and evil – believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love. We heard the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble. Mary says: "My souls glorifies the Lord" – today, the Church too sings this in every part of the world. This song is particularly strong in places where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion. For us Christians, wherever the Cross is, there is hope, always. If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope. May we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven. And Mary is always there, near those communities, our brothers and sisters, she accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings the Magnificat of hope with them.
Jean-Luc Marion on the Life of a Christian Scholar
Amid this memorial notice for Jean Elshtain (at the site of the splendid Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago), the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion offers a tribute that is also (most especially as we prepare to start a new academic year) a magnificent summary of the vocation of a Christian academic:
Jean Bethke Elshtain had a tough-thinking mind and a friendly open heart, while most people—in the academy as well as outside it—are the reverse: weak in thought, hard in feelings. Her books on (just) war, gender and feminism, culture and democracy were not only able to raise the level of discourse, fuel fierce debate, and engage vigorously the most well-received idols of our days, but they also gave back to moral and political philosophy a renewed dignity as serious science....Christian faith gave her enough certitude to display radicality in thinking, unlimited energy in interacting with interlocutors, colleagues and students, and an obviously deep and sincere friendship for all. In her presence, I was proud not only to teach and work with her in Swift Hall, but also to share the same creed.